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to the bloody civil war in syria and there's new word from the defense secretary leon panetta that the assad regime appears to be slowing its preparations for the possible use of chemical weapons against rebel forces. all this as an activist group inside syria claims they are in full control of a massive military base not far from the country's largest city. national security correspondent jennifer giffin is following it from the pentagon. hi, jennifer. >> reporter: hi, alisyn. the pentagon never officially acknowledged the intelligence reports that the components for sarin nerve gas had been mixed. u.s. officials spoke on background about the intelligence that suggested there were signs it was being readied for use. though they would never give specifics about which syrian base, for instance, they had indications was making the alleged preparations. today defense secretary leon panetta en route to the middle east appeared to backtrack. >> at this point the intelligence is really kind of leveled off. we haven't anything new indicating, you know, any aggressive steps to move forward in that w
that they were, quote, just looking for bread. meantime, an international peace envoy for syria who just wrapped up fresh talks with president bashar assad said that the two had discussed taking, quote, many steps to help end the violence. ♪ gregg: back in washington, d.c., anxiety is rising over a plan to avert spending cuts and big tax hikes by january 1. the growing number of lawmakers say they are deeply skeptical that a deal can be reached in the next seven days, and we're beginning to hear new reports suggesting the president may have a smaller deal in mind, one that will keep tax rates where they are and, again, put off the issue of spending cuts. chris stirewalt, fox news digital politics editor, host of "power play" on foxnews.com, chris, good to see you. i was reading your recent column, i want to put a portion of it up on the screen, and i'll quote you: gregg: explain what you mean. >> a cheerful christmas thought, gregg. [laughter] merry, merry. no, when we look back at 2012, if you take a minute and look back at the arc of this year in politics, what you saw was the smallest -- it
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